The City Council will consider amending the city's Civil Rights Code to clarify that the rights of those with with a non-religion — such as atheism, agnosticism, or lack of belief in God or Gods — are also protected.
The ordinance was submitted by Commissioner Amanda Fritz at the request of Cheryl Kolbe, President of Freedom From Religion Portland Chapter.
"This change says that Portland chooses to make certain that non-believers receive the same protection from discrimination as those in any form of religion," Kolbe said in a Tuesday press release from Fritz's office. "This is very affirming for those of us who are atheist, agnostic or any other form of non-belief. It is the right thing to do."
State law does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on non-religion, and courts have a mixed record on whether non-religion should receive the same protections as religious beliefs.
The vote on the ordinance is expected to occur on February 27th, 2019
According to the release, prejudice towards atheists, along with other non-religious individuals exists in the United States. Polls consistently show that many Americans do not trust and would not elect an atheist as President, nor believe they should have the opportunity to teach in public school.
"Portland has a large percentage of residents who identify as religiously unaffiliated," Fritz said. "We need to make these changes to our Civil Rights Code to remove discriminatory barriers, so they may participate equally in employment, housing, and public accommodations in the City."
In crafting the ordinance and code changes, Fritz's office worked with the City Attorney's Office, American Civil Liberties Union, Freedom From Religion, the Human Rights Commission, the Office of Equity and Human Rights, and City equity managers, the release said.
"I thank Ms. Kolbe for bringing this issue to my attention and those who weighed in on the Code changes," says Commissioner Fritz. "It is an important conversation, informed by people with many perspectives. Freedom of religion includes freedom not to affiliate with a religious belief. This Resolution clarifies that fact."
Madison, Wisconsin passed similar legislation in 2015, the release said.